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March 2017


Supreme Court Decision
Alters Patent Defense Landscape







For more information about this alert, please contact:


Todd A. Davidovits


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Keith J. Grady


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Gary E. Hood


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In a highly-anticipated ruling, the Supreme Court held that patent holders can recover damages for infringement even when the patent holders unreasonably delayed filing a lawsuit.  In SCA Hygiene Products AB v. First Quality Baby Products LLC, the Supreme Court eliminated laches as a defense to claims for damages in patent cases.  Laches prevents a party from suing after an unreasonable delay. 

The Patent Act, which governs patent infringement cases, limits a patent owner's right to recover damages for infringement to the six-year period that precedes the filing of a complaint.  In a 2014 decision, Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., the Supreme Court held that a similar provision in the Copyright Act that set a three-year statute of limitations eliminated the laches defense.  The Court explained that where Congress explicitly sets a statute of limitations, this implicitly means that a rights holder can collect damages within the statute of limitations.  Essentially, Congress eliminated laches as a defense to a claim for damages within the statute of limitations.  In the ruling, which occurred Tuesday, March 21, the Supreme Court adopted this interpretation for patent cases.

This decision eliminates a defense that accused infringers frequently assert and gives patent owners the right to collect damages for infringement that occurred within six-years of filing a complaint.  Laches remains a defense to equitable relief. Please contact Polsinelli attorneys to discuss how this decision impacts your ability to protect your valuable intellectual property.   

For More Information

For more information on this ruling or how it may impact your business, please contact one of the authors, a member of Polsinelli's Intellectual Property practice, or your Polsinelli attorney.













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